Vibram FiveFingers are undoubtedly some of the quirkiest footwear designs out there. Instantly recognisable by its unique separate toe pockets, the aim of wearing VFFs is to simulate walking barefoot while being protected by thin, flexible and grippy Vibram rubber.
Some VFF variants are optimised for trail use, while others are made to perform like fish to water. Having the opportunity to try some different pairs out over the next few weeks, will I go from toe-shoe rookie to barefoot expert? Come along for my journey into the Vibram FiveFingers range!
By far the most ‘conventional’ pair of the bunch due to its laced system and mesh construction, I began my VFF adventure with the V-Run Retro. It’s also one of the more padded pairs in the range, with a 2mm-thick insole and 4mm of Vibram Trek XS rubber. While this relative plushness sounded good, it was still a remarkably minimalist experience – once I figured out how to put them on, that is. Thankfully, Vibram provide Field Guides on just how to get used to the shoes.
For FiveFingers first-timers like me, one of the biggest challenges was slipping my toe into each designated pocket. After using a technique akin to reverse parking, each phalange was soon safely tucked. The next major adjustment was the sudden lack of heel drop (most conventional footwear is designed so that the heel sits higher than the forefoot, and it’s what most wearers are accustomed to). VFFs are zero-drop, meaning the heel and forefoot are on the same plane. With the shoes on, I suddenly felt like my heels were ‘digging’ into the ground. I was definitely planted.
After a few days in the V-Run Retro, starting with short slow walks down to the local cafe before progressing to brief jogs, I noticed some changes. My steps were more deliberate and focused on midfoot landings – I wasn’t just smashing my heels against the ground – and my gait was more stable. I suspect this is in part due to my toes being more splayed out as well. Putting VFFs on became second nature, and I think I’m ready to try the other pairs now!
It’s starting to heat up in my part of the world, so I’ve been hitting the beach to cool down. Along for the ride is the V-Aqua, which is optimised for water use. This is thanks to the Vibram Megagrip soles and stretch mesh upper for quick drying. There are even drain holes through the bottom. This is especially important considering that this model is made to be worn sockless, evident by the neoprene footbed and silicone heel grip strips.
Vibram Megagrip soles have a particular stickiness on both wet and dry surfaces, helping grip onto uneven textures where it would normally be difficult to get any good purchase, which is why they worked well for river crossings and along the beach. Another useful feature of the aggressive sole pattern is they easily shed loose dirt and rocks because of how flexible the tread is.
I quite liked the stretchiness of the mesh upper, and it was particularly breathable in hot conditions. The minimal hardware was a bonus, too. Unlike the V-Run Retro I was wearing previously, the V-Aqua simply cinched up with a strap running across my step and forefoot. Sure, I’m not gonna run my local 5K in them, but they offer more than enough support for normal use in and out of water.
Stay tuned for the next instalment of this series by keeping an eye on our Instagram page.